The Cactus Patch
Volume 8       October 2005      Number 10

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We finally saw "Hotel Rwanda". I had feared it was just another pessimistic account of gross inhumanity. To my joy, it is a positive report on one man's effort to counter such inhumanity. It is good to be reminded that one man can make a difference. (We have never been to Rwanda except for a brief stopover at Kigale airport on the way back from Bujumbura to Kampala, but the cultural conflict is the same as Burundi which we have visited. I would not want to live in that neighborhood.)

Fortunately the cultural conflicts in Botswana are relatively mild. The Tswana peoples are by far the majority. We have had ample opportunity recently to see that there are problems in accommodating the minorities. We started on the 19th of August with a visit to D'Kar, a Naro San (Bushman) settlement north of Ghanzi (the far West of Botswana). That Friday evening we watched 16 groups demonstrate healing dances. This emphasizes the truth that there are many different groups of San. Some were from South Africa and Namibia, but the majority were from parts of Botswana, which has the largest population. Interestingly, two of the groups (the Hambukushu and Herero) are black Africans rather than San. Some people are surprised to learn that the San are not the only people to use trance and dance for healing.

Saturday there was a marathon of dancing. The morning started with a nursery school group. They were cute (except for the kid who was drug in and ran off screaming). The rest of the morning was spent in watching "Entertainmant" dances. These are basic stories such as hunting for oryx or being attacked by lions. In the afternoon they had a series of games. The commonest one was a dance where each women threw a small melon (or orange in an updated version) behind her while dancing. The groups varied from one which dropped them all to another which adroitly caught every throw.

There were crafts for sale and I bought a print by "Dada" Coex'ae Qgam. We found her in the crowd and were happy to answer her complaint that no-one buys her work by telling her I had bought one. Even with the help of our host Hessel Visser, author of the Naro Dictionary, we were unable to identify the plant in the print. We only have the Naro name, but I suspect it is Indigofera, a plant which has long been used for the dye indigo in many places.

Incidently, this trip was the inaugural use of our Land Rover. There were continuous problems starting with a rotten intake hose that had to be replaced the day we started out, to continuous overheating. The last straw was at Jwaneng where we stopped for fuel on the way back. We got hit by another vehicle (nothing serious) and had to wait a long time for the police to determine it was the other driver's fault.

Another vehicular problem occurred when we went out to Mokolodi Nature Reserve on the 28th. Polly locked the keys in the car and I had left the spare set at home. We were rescued by our friend Ian Kirby who happened by as he was checking how things were going at the Nature Reserve he founded. (Incidentally, he is also Attorney-General for the country and represents a very small, but powerful, minority of white citizens)

On the 4th of Sept. we went to Bokaa Dam (now the main water supply for Gaborone as the main dam is down) with the Bird Club and saw flamingos, spoonbills, cormorants etc. We saw the first yellow-billed kite of the season -being mobbed by a pair of pied kingfishers who are much smaller! It was good to see that African participation is up, but the club is still largely White expatriates.

On the 9th we went to a launching of the book "Reasonable Radicals" ( Richard Werbner, 2004, Indiana U. Press). It describes the elite of the Kalanga, Botswana's largest minority. They are related to the majority in Zimbabwe and are under considerable pressure as more and more illegal immigrants sneak in from there.

Tuesday the 13th we went to the old Village Cinema (good to see it used once again) for a live music and dance show "Sidadi". This was a Namibian group which had a wide variety of instruments (from the largest mouth bow I've seen to an obnoxiously loud keyboard) and gave us a sample of the wide variety of cultural groups in Namibian.

On Thursday there was an opening of a Chinese photo exhibit at the museum. It focused on Beijing and the 2008 Olympics. Another culture heard from! (The closest we've been is Hong Kong back in 1984.)

Then on Friday we went to David Slater's house for an evening of classical music. Most of the numbers were sung by an American volunteer who has an amazing Baritone voice, but all the others were local talent. Quite a contrast to the music they grew up with.

Finally, on the 17th we went to a 20th reunion of the Botswana Music Camp. We were hoping that Hugh Masekela, one of the founders and the most famous of the leaders, would be there. I even bought and read his book "Still Grazing" (Hugh Masejela and D. Micael Cheers, 2004, Crown Pubs.,New York). Unfortunately, they had to settle for lesser lights. (Polly & I sang a short number.) Still, it was memorable day.

That same evening the Bird Club had its annual dinner. The food was so-so and the speaker, Tim Crowe, was much to detailed and went on far too long. I have his book on game birds and understood what he was getting at with his numerous family trees, but I think most of the audience was lost.

I'll end on a non-cultural note. A hybrid aloe appeared in the Botanic Garden some time ago and has finally bloomed. It is interesting in that it lies somewhat between the two parents Aloe globuligemma and Aloe marlothii. These are the only two in Botswana which have horizontal flower stalks (which the birds love as it gives them a ready perch). In the wild they are not known to meet and therefore don't cross. Incidentally, the Aloe globuligemma bloomed earlier than the Aloe marlothii, so even the timing goes against such a hybrid (which, incidentally, bloomed between the other two).

Bruce & Dada

Bruce & Polly at Music Camp Reunion

Hybrid Aloe A. marlothii and A. globuligemma

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